During a recent international law conference in Wellington, Professor Shirley Scott found herself amongst many of the world’s greatest legal minds. There was the only Australian judge currently on the international Court of Justice, as well as a recently retired NZ judge. There were key people from the New Zealand Foreign Ministry and several top international lawyers from around the globe.

“We were looking at the future of international law as the distribution of world power shifts,” Scott says. “I was invited so that I could look at the big picture of geopolitics and link it to legal trends.”

A few weeks earlier she appeared before an Australian Senate Inquiry to help...

Books have many roles to play during times of conflict. Dr Christina Spittel is interested in the way books are mobilised to sustain a world at war, and how they help to rebuild it afterwards. 

Currently she’s finishing a history of the Great War in Australian novels, spanning an entire century. With an international team of colleagues, she is studying how young people learn to commemorate war, not least through literature. Next up is a big project, funded by the Australian Research Council, on a socialist publishing venture to supply the Cold War world with English-language paperbacks from East Berlin. 

“I write across disciplines and my work has been picked up by...

Currently consulting to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in South-East Asia, Professor Rob McLaughlin (also a Captain in the Royal Australian Navy Reserve) regularly advises to and designs workshops for maritime police, coast guard organisations, government advisors, government departments and policy makers on matters of maritime law enforcement and security.

His research areas covering the law, regulation and governance of maritime operations, the laws of armed conflict and threats and challenges to the rules-based order. McLaughlin’s main audience is practitioners who work in these fields and who apply regulation and law. A secondary audience is academics.


Academic research is never more engaging than when it is conducted hand-in-hand with those who most value its results. As if to prove this point, during his recent work, Professor Clinton Fernandes liaised directly with federal politicians to assist Parliament in enacting three major pieces of national security legislation.

One of those was the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act.

“I liaised with Senator Nick Xenophon and contributed to several privacy protections,” Fernandes, who has written four books, 25 book chapters and over 15 journal articles, says.

“The most significant innovations were the creation of a category of ‘...

Teachers and students in schools across Australia regularly benefit from the work that has been, and is being, conducted by Associate Professor Eleanor Hancock. Once a diplomat with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hancock is now a leading historian on the topic of Nazi Germany.

Having written three books, including Ernst Röhm: Hitler's SA Chief of Staff and Swastika over the Acropolis (with Associate Professor Craig Stockings), she has regularly been invited to address History Teachers Association ACT and History Teachers Association Australia, as well as several classes of history students.

“With the History Teachers Associations I tend to update them on the...

Dr Lindy Edwards is a regular guest on the ABC television program The Drum and, in the recent past, has enjoyed a fortnightly slot on ABC Radio during which she discussed political ideology in Australian politics. She also makes YouTube videos on various related topics, some of which have boasted up to 30,000 views.

Edwards’ book, The Passion of Politics, and her ensuing media activity, has demonstrated there is an appetite to understand the deeper issues driving our politics, beyond the focus on short-term tactics and personalities that occupy so much of today’s political journalism.

“I also write op-eds for Fairfax newspapers, providing context around issues like the...

Dr Heather Neilson, one of the world’s foremost experts on the life and work of Gore Vidal, has turned her attention to Vidal’s biographer and friend, Jay Parini.

A writer and educator, Parini turns 70 in 2018. Neilson recently sat in on what was likely his final class at Middlebury College, where he has been a Professor of English and Creative Writing.

“Parini has produced many historical novels,” Neilson says. “But poetry he values more than anything else. He is also a burgeoning screenplay writer. This is where my current research is focused, although the bigger aim is to write a book on Parini's whole body of writing.”

Parini wrote the film The Last Station, a...

When Dr Morten Pedersen speaks, international policy makers listen. Having come into academia from the world of policy analysis, Pedersen has been a thought leader on the international community’s responses to ongoing issues in Myanmar for the past decade and a half.

In recent years, his focus has broadened to look at how global bodies promote a liberal, internationalist agenda. His research considers how the international community can best promote peace, democracy and human rights.

Pedersen consults frequently with governments and international organisations. His work is read by policy makers, diplomats and NGO staff, as well as academics.

“It can be difficult to...

It has been important for Australians, particularly during the centenary commemorations of Anzac events, to develop a more diverse interpretation of events during the First World War. Much of this understanding has come from the work of military historians.

Professor Peter Stanley, a battlefield researcher and author of 32 books, is a founder of and regular contributor to Honest History, a website offering a sustained and authoritative critique of ‘Anzackery’ – the exaggerated presentation of the Anzac legend.

Based on his substantive work on the history of Australia in the Great War, exemplified by his scholarly work, such as his chapters in The War at Home (2015) and his...

Not long ago a senior officer from a foreign military body wrote to Dr Peter Balint to thank him for his work on dealing with insurgents. The officer’s eyes had been opened, he said, to the fact that dealing with the problem was not so much about fighting and killing the insurgents and was more about helping the communities that produced them. It was around fighting poverty rather than fighting people.

Balint studies ‘toleration’, or the way different ways of life can be taken seriously in order for everybody to live together successfully. It’s as relevant historically (Catholics vs Protestants) as it is currently (same-sex marriage).

His book, Respecting Toleration:...

As she was studying international maritime law, Dr Tamsin Phillipa Paige recognised a lack of research that took into account its sociological and socio-legal implications. After approaching a number of universities and supervisors, she travelled to East Africa to observe how laws were applied in counter piracy operations.

“I did a bunch of field work, interviewing key players in the enforcement field,” Paige says. “I also observed trial procedures for Somalis who’d been arrested and charged with piracy.”

Further into her research career Paige realised there was no legal definition for the term ‘threat to the peace’ (which allows the UN Security Council to trigger military...

One cultural driver of terrorism is that people develop suspicion, or paranoia, about western foreign policy – or so the story goes. It’s a convenient, clean and easy-to-digest explanation of a complex subject that was common in western counter-terrorism policy after 9/11 and persists in current CVE policy, and it’s one that Dr Tim Aistrope refused to accept.

Aistrope’s work has looked into conspiracy and paranoia in relation to radicalisation, and particularly the role of social media as a place where political information is propagated and contested. That has led to studies into political warfare carried out online by state and non-state actors, which he refers to as ‘cyber-...

Dr Deane-Peter Baker has been working in the area of military ethics for the last decade.

“Some of my early work was on ethical questions around private military and security companies,” Baker says. “More recently I've been focussing on special operations ethics as well as some work on the ethics of autonomous weapons.”

“There is evidence that training in military ethics does impact battlefield behaviour and potentially leads to fewer unnecessary deaths. So a big focus for me is spreading the word.”

Baker has run a massive open online course (MOOC), a seven-week course called ‘Military Ethics: An Introduction’ that included papers, a book written for the course and...

As a military historian specifically interested in the German Army during the Second World War, Dr David Stahel has a core audience of academics but a broader audience of people with a deep interest in, and knowledge of, anything connected with war.

“A production company that makes documentaries told me they never get as much feedback on any of the documentaries they make as they do for the military history ones,” Stahel says.

After touring Russia for the History channel’s Hitler’s Frozen Army in 2012 David has since appeared in numerous episodes of World War II: Battles Won and Lost (2017) and World War: Total War (forthcoming 2018). He has also conducted numerous radio...

Not long ago Dr Minako Sakai was a panellist at the World Economic Forum in Jakarta, discussing religion and development in Islamic economies. A few years later, on Indonesia’s Independence Day, she and several other dignitaries were invited to the Indonesian Presidential Palace. It struck her as powerful that the work of a female Japanese academic, fluent in Indonesian and living and working in Australia, was being openly respected in the Islamic nation.

“These types of experiences make me realise my work is bigger than I thought,” Sakai says. “This is good, because engagement is not a photo opportunity, it is a long-term relationship.”

“That is something I have learned...

Ethicist Dr Ned Dobos asks the big questions.

“I'm involved in figuring out what is right and wrong, just and unjust, fair and unfair, and applying these principles to real-life contexts and scenarios,” he says.

Within Applied Ethics there are many specialist areas, such as criminal justice ethics, biomedical ethics and sports ethics. Dobos focuses on military and business ethics.

“One strand of military ethics is concerned with how soldiers ought to conduct themselves once hostilities are underway,” he says. “I'm more interested in what justifies recourse to war in the first place, and whether the very existence of the military establishment is justified.”


As the Director of the Public Leadership Research Group – Howard Library, Professor Tom Frame is based in Old Parliament House. The halls around him are thick with history, and of tales about the effects of good and bad leadership.

Fittingly, Frame’s work revolves around the dynamics of public leadership in terms of political processes and popular culture. How is it, for example, that national leaders are able to shape or reflect the consensus, then move the nation forward to reach its full potential, as so many disparate groups pull in different directions?

“Leadership has become more complicated, partly because of the nature of modern communications,” Frame says. “Anybody...